One of the biggest pitfalls of debt consolidation is the risk of running up new debt before the consolidated debt is paid off. When you finish paying off credit cards with a consolidation loan, don’t be tempted to use the credit cards with their newly free credit limits. If you think you might, close the accounts. You may have heard that doing so could hurt your credit score, and it might. But you can recover from credit score damage much more easily and quickly than you can recover from crushing debt.
It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked. That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far.
People typically consolidate credit card debt if they have debt on high-interest credit cards and are incurring high-interest charges. By consolidating credit card debt, they can potentially save a great deal of money on interest payments and get out of debt sooner than if they left their debt on high-interest credit cards since more of their payment will go toward their principal balance.
Still, even if the math of a debt consolidation loan works out in your favor, your behavior may be the real problem. Paying off all of your credit cards and debts with a loan only shuffles the deck chairs around—you still owe money you have to pay, and if you go charging up those freshly paid-off credit cards again, those deck chairs may as well be on the Titanic.
In most cases, the 0% APR interest rate is a limited-time promotion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If the rate rises, your monthly payment could also increase. The CFPB also notes that the company can raise your rate if you’re more than 60 days late on a payment. Additionally, you may have to pay a balance transfer fee, and if you also use the card to make purchases, the new charges may be subject to interest unless there’s also an introductory 0% APR for purchases.
Unsurprisingly, consumers across the southern United States are far more likely to have subprime credit scores than consumers across the north. Minnesota had the fewest subprime consumers. In December 2016, just 21.9% of residents fell below an Equifax Risk Score of 660. Mississippi had the worst subprime rate in the nation: 48.3% of Mississippi residents had credit scores below 660 in December 2016.35
Credit utilization is the ratio of your account balance to your spending limit. It basically indicates whether you are using too much credit, which, for the purpose of maintaining good or excellent credit, is generally above 30% of what’s available. The ratio is calculated for each of your credit cards individually as well as for all of them collectively. The lower your credit utilization ratio(s), the better it generally is for your overall credit score.
Debt management companies will often use marketing language that makes them sound like consolidation loans. Typically, a debt management company will ask you to start paying them instead of the credit card companies. These companies will hold the money in an escrow account and will not pay the credit card bills. As a result, your accounts will become delinquent. Your credit score will be negatively impacted. And collection calls will be initiated.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it’s accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who got your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who got a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
There are a lot of myths out there about credit scoring – hopefully we can help you understand FICO scoring, so you can take action to build your score. There are five major components FICO uses to determine a credit score. Fortunately, understanding the secret sauce can help you build a strong score and healthy credit report. Both a 700+ score and healthy credit report will help keep the rest of your financial life cheaper by enabling you to get lower interest rates on loans and approved for top-tier financial products.
In more cases than not, debt consolidation loans don't make sense. They're certainly attractive: the lure of being able to pay off all of your credit cards is a strong one, especially in exchange for a single monthly payment to your bank or credit union at a lower interest rate. It's definitely a tantalizing opportunity, but it's not perfect. Remember, debt consolidation loans are financial products, which means financial institutions wouldn't offer them to you if they didn't make money from them. Here are a few tips to make sure you're not falling into a trap:
Thank you for this. I have been building my credit back after Economy struggles and long term illness. Today, I'm in a better position physically and materially. Most of my credit issues are resolved. However, I'm curious as to your next step once you resolved the medical bill situation. Did you pay the creditor and subsequently write a letter to the credit bureaus? I have a $284 medical bill I can't recall not paying, but I would like to resolve the matter this year.
However, there is a big risk to using a debt consolidation loan. Once you pay off your credit cards, you will be tempted with a lot of newly available credit. If you got into debt because you spent too much money on credit cards, creating more spending power on your credit cards can be a dangerous strategy. Dave Ramsey regularly tells listeners that they cannot borrow their way out of debt. On his blog, he write that "debt consolidation is nothing more than a "con" because you think you’ve done something about the debt problem. The debt is still there, as are the habits that caused it — you just moved it!"
Here is where it all comes together! Rapid rescoring can raise your credit scores quickly. Many of the tactics on this list are highly effective but can take 30 days or more to actually reflect in your credit score. But a consumer can utilize a Rapid Rescore in order to speed up that recalculation of their credit – and raise their score within just days or a week. With a Rapid Rescore, the credit bureaus simply recompute your score immediately, instead of at the next natural cycle date. Therefore, if you’ve paid down debt, added yourself as an authorized user, deleted collections, or added new positive tradelines, it will show up post haste. A Rapid Rescore is invaluable if you’re applying for a business loan, trying to get approved for a mortgage so you can make an offer on a house, or just trying to clean up your credit before a potential employer checks your report. However, you’ll want to enlist some help to take advantage of a Rapid Rescore, so contact Blue Water Credit if you’d like more information or help with any of these tactics!
A good idea would be to keep three to four credit card accounts open, but only use one or two of them; put away or cut up the others. Once you have paid off a card, though, keep the account open, even if you don’t want to use it anymore. Closing a card will lower your credit score, even if you always paid on time and never carried an outstanding balance. If a card's high annual fees are making it undesirable, try asking the credit card company for a downgrade to one of their free or lower-fee cards. This allows you to maintain a longer history with the company, which is important for a healthy credit score. The company will report to the credit bureau that you have a good record with them, which will increase your credit rating.
Note that drastically reducing your credit score could impact your career, especially if you maintain a security clearance. Bad credit is the leading cause of loss of security clearance. A low credit score can also impact employability in the financial services sector. If you want to maintain a good credit score, debt settlement may not be the best way to consolidate debt.
Isolating your financial needs on different credit-card accounts will help you get the best possible terms on every transaction that you make. For example, you could get the best cash-back credit card for everyday expenses, the best travel rewards card for airfare and hotel reservations, and the best balance-transfer card for reducing the cost of your existing debt.
If you have one of those letters we mentioned earlier that details your credit problems, you have some idea of what’s holding you back. Even though it may seem complex, as we mentioned, your credit score is based on five core factors: payment history, credit utilization, the age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts and history of applying for credit. They’re not equally weighted, and this information will most likely vary between credit bureaus.